Rep. Adam Schiff: Case For Imprisoning Cohen Also 'Applies To Donald Trump'05:15
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Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., expected to become chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, speaks with reporters as he arrives for Democratic leadership elections on Capitol Hill in Washington, Nov. 28, 2018. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)
Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., expected to become chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, speaks with reporters as he arrives for Democratic leadership elections on Capitol Hill in Washington, Nov. 28, 2018. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

President Trump responded Thursday morning on Twitter for the first time to his former lawyer Michael Cohen's sentencing to three years in prison for federal crimes, including hush-money payments made just before the 2016 election to two women who claimed they had affairs with Trump.

Federal prosecutors haven't directly accused Trump of a crime, and it's not clear under Justice Department protocol that they could bring any criminal charges against a sitting president.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff), a Trump critic who's likely the incoming chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, says the DOJ's case for sending Cohen to prison also applies to Trump.

"What the Justice Department had to say about Michael Cohen is that while people out there in their everyday lives were participating in the political process by making phone calls or walking precincts or hanging door hangers on door knobs, the rich and powerful were operating by a different set of rules, and because of this, they needed to make an example of Michael Cohen," Schiff says. "That same argument applies with even greater force to the individual that was identified as coordinating and directing this scheme."

Also this week, the publisher of the National Enquirer — a longtime Trump supporter — agreed to tell prosecutors everything he knows about hush-money payments his company made for the Trump campaign to suppress a woman's story and prevent it from influencing the election.

Interview Highlights

On whether President Trump should be indicted

"I certainly think that if the Justice Department believes that what Michael Cohen did justifies his going to jail for a long time, that you cannot make the argument that somehow that doesn't apply to Donald Trump. ... I think every argument the Justice Department has made for putting Michael Cohen in jail applies to Donald Trump."

"The Justice Department has asserted the view that ... a fraudulent scheme that may have an influence on the outcome of that election, was coordinated and directed by the now-president of the United States."

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.)

On the latest developments involving Cohen and the National Enquirer

"I think where we are is the Justice Department has asserted the view that a campaign finance violations scheme, a fraudulent scheme that may have an influence on the outcome of that election, was coordinated and directed by the now-president of the United States. That's a pretty startling conclusion.

"But more than that, through the agreement with [American Media Inc.], the parent of the National Enquirer, it is no longer just Michael Cohen's word. It is the word of other witnesses as well, that not only were these payments made, not only was Individual 1, or Donald Trump, in the know, but that the principal purpose of these payments was influencing the election. Of course, that's key because that undercuts what Donald Trump is saying, that these payments had nothing to do with the election."

On the argument that these were private transactions, not illegal campaign contributions

"... There are ample witnesses and corroborating evidence that, along with the timing of this right on the eve of the election, it's quite clear exactly what the object was. And in terms of the president's comments, I think he's demonstrated time and time again you really can't rely on anything he has to say about this, because of course, he maintained for a long time that he knew nothing of these payments. And now we have heard recordings of him discussing these payments at the time of Michael Cohen. So he's not exactly a credible source on any of this."

On the idea that a sitting president can't be indicted

"There's no constitutional prohibition on indicting the sitting president. The Department of Justice, through its office of legal counsel, has opined in opinions which are not statutory or constitutional, they are merely the opinion of a lawyer at the Justice Department that that should not be done while the president is in office. But that conflicts in this circumstance with the potential that the statute of limitations may run on these serious crimes, and indeed crimes that may have helped him obtain office.

"It cannot be the policy of the Department of Justice that a president is above the law, or that if the president remains in office long enough, he can escape the jailer simply by duration in office. That can't be the policy of the Justice Department. I do think they may need to reconsider that policy. It may be they will want to wait and see whether this question is mooted if the president isn't re-elected and the statute of limitations is not an issue, then maybe it's a moot point. But I think the whole issue really needs to be ... re-examined by the Justice Department."


Lynn Menegon produced and edited this interview for broadcast. Jack Mitchell adapted it for the web.

This segment aired on December 13, 2018.

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